Ghostwriter – Author – Journalist

Reporter Tom Gould was a trailblazer of Canadian journalism

By on July 28, 2016 in Articles with 0 Comments

Tom Gould, seen here in 1962, was a leading journalist in his time, a pioneer of Canadian TV journalism, and the architect of the modern CTV News. (Courtesy of CBC Still Photo Collection)

Tom Gould, seen here in 1962, was a leading journalist in his time, a pioneer of Canadian TV journalism, and the architect of the modern CTV News.
(Courtesy of CBC Still Photo Collection)


Tom Gould, who died of cancer last week at the age of 84, was one of Canada’s first generation of star television reporters and went on to become an influential broadcast executive, building CTV’s news operation into a top-rated broadcaster.

As the CBC’s United Nations correspondent, he covered the United States in the era of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He was in Birmingham, Ala., in April, 1963, when Bull Connor, the racist commissioner of public safety, set the dogs on black protesters; he and his camera crew stood behind Martin Luther King when he made his “I have a dream” speech in Washington in August of that year. During that period, he also reported from the field in Vietnam.

“Tom was among the small corps of CBC trailblazers of Canadian TV journalism,” said Peter Kent, now an MP, but once the reader of The National and a foreign correspondent. Mr. Gould’s peers included Michael Maclear, Morley Safer, Norman DePoe and Bill Cunningham. “That generation set the course for all serious TV journalists who followed, and who had the benefit of much better technology and editorial resources.”

In the mid-1960s Mr. Gould moved to CTV where as the first vice-president of news he effectively forged the network’s news operation. He started Canada AM and handled the negotiations to bring Lloyd Robertson over from the CBC to CTV, where Mr. Robertson read the nightly news for 35 years.

“When Tom Gould went to CTV News, it was little more than a headline service,” said Mr. Cunningham, who worked with and for Mr. Gould at both the CBC and CTV.

Craig Oliver, CTV’s chief political correspondent, was lured away from the CBC in 1972 by Mr. Gould.

“In many ways, he created the CTV News we have now. The CRTC said ‘you guys [CTV owners] aren’t doing enough. You need Canadian content and a proper newscast.’

He hired people from the CBC and was there when Lloyd Robertson came aboard [in 1976]. It gave us instant credibility and the audience swung with him,” Mr. Oliver said.

Thomas Simpson Clark Reid was born in Edmonton on Oct. 29, 1931. His father, whom he seldom spoke of, was Thomas Reid, his mother Carlotta Simmer, a German immigrant who came to Canada in 1912, “on a ship that passed the Titanic in the Atlantic,” according to Mr. Gould’s widow, Jodey Porter. His parents divorced when Tom was four years old.

His mother remarried, to a man named Gould, although no one in the family seems to know his first name. Young Tom took his stepfather’s last name.

Tom said he wanted to be a newspaper reporter from the age of 13.

He didn’t like school, though, and quit in the last year at Strathcona High School and for the next few years worked in a series of jobs, ranging from a hard rock miner to a hand on a fishing boat.

He told the Montreal Star in 1963 that he had no regrets about not going to university. “I think to understand people and what motivates them you have to live with them,” Mr. Gould said. “I covered the Springhill mine disaster and I knew all the mining terms. I could picture what was going on underground.”

After three years of working-stiff jobs, he landed as a junior reporter with the Nanaimo Free Press.

He moved through a series of newspaper and radio jobs, the next one always a rung up from the last, until he arrived in Ottawa as the parliamentary correspondent for FP Publications.

During that time, the handsome, young reporter did some television work – he had learned the basics of broadcasting in radio – and was spotted by the CBC. Mr. Gould was hired by the CBC as its UN correspondent January, 1962, when he was 30.

Using New York as a base, Mr. Gould and his camera crew covered the United States, and in particular the big story of the day, the civil rights movement, as politicians in the southern United States fought to keep the races segregated in public places from schools to restaurants and buses.

By far the most dramatic event of his first year in the job was the Cuban missile crisis, when the United States and the Soviet Union came close to nuclear war.

Mr. Gould covered it for CBC radio and television. He would also do live broadcasts and specials on elections and political conventions.

When U.S. president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November, 1963, Mr. Gould flew to Havana within six hours to cover reaction there.

In May, 1964, Mr. Gould was named the Far East correspondent for the CBC, and he was based in Tokyo. He shot documentaries on the war in Vietnam and provided extensive news coverage from the field, including covering the landing of U.S. marines in Danang. Several years ago, in a talk on his life, he told an audience that one of the challenges in covering Vietnam was to improvise in the field to make the camera equipment as portable as possible so that correspondents could move quickly and safely in a war zone.

While in Asia, he interviewed the U.S. commander, Alexander Haig, a future secretary of state. In Mr. Gould’s long career, he interviewed many world leaders, including Indira Gandhi of India and China’s Deng Xioping.

In 1968, Mr. Gould was lured away from the CBC to become the first vice-president of news at CTV. At the time, the network was a co-operative, owned by nine TV stations in different markets across Canada. Philip (Pip) Wedge, who was vice-president of programming while Mr. Gould was at CTV, said the rivalry between the richer stations in Vancouver and Toronto made it a difficult place to work.

Among Mr. Gould’s many achievements at CTV was to recruit Michael Maclear from the CBC to start Maclear, the most successful half-hour documentary series of its day. He also started the early-morning network program Canada AM, in 1973.

“The story behind Canada AM was the network was putting an American soap opera on in the afternoon and they needed Canadian content to balance it off. At first, it was given to the entertainment department, but when that didn’t work, Murray [Chercover, the CTV president] gave the planning to me,” Mr. Gould told The Globe and Mail in 2010.

The deal to hire Mr. Robertson was done in the garden of Mr. Gould’s townhouse on Boswell Avenue in Toronto’s Annex.

“Tom gave me the chance to do things I couldn’t do at the CBC,” Mr. Robertson said. “The guild [the CBC journalists’ union] had just walked out because I broadcast from London. Tom said at the time: ‘I have just secured the future of CTV News for the next 10 years.’ But I was there for 35.”

Although his own days as a roving reporter were over, Mr. Gould returned to a collapsing Vietnam in 1975.

“In the final days of the Vietnam War, Tom made a personal mission to Saigon to help rescue relatives of his Vietnamese wife, Nhi,” Mr. Kent said. “Our CBC crew found out he was leaving on the same Canadian Forces flight that was evacuating the Canadian ambassador and, though he was a CTV exec and carrying film out for CTV’s Henry Champ, he agreed as a professional courtesy to carry my film report to the lab and satellite uplink in Hong Kong as well.

“The irony was, I had a scoop on Henry: film of the Canadian ambassador evacuating his limo and artworks rather than embassy employees.

“But when Tom saw our report going out on the satellite uplink that night … he decided he had a claim on those pictures and told CTV staff in Toronto to lift our CBC sequence off the satellite and match our coverage. Such was the state of the craft in that day and Tom’s highly competitive nature. He was one-of-a-kind, one of a world-class breed of early TV journalists.”

Although he was running the network, Mr. Gould was too good on camera to waste full time in an office.

He wrote and presented an end-of-newscast feature called The Backgrounder. His views were free market and small-c conservative, which mirrored those of most of the owners of CTV. He was also a co-host of W5.

“Tom was a natural broadcaster, but he was always nervous and would sometimes go to the bathroom and throw up before going on air,” said his friend and colleague Bill Cunningham, another adventurous television reporter from the same era. “Tom and Morley Safer were the two best TV writers I worked with.”

Mr. Gould resigned as an executive with CTV in 1976 but stayed on reading The Backgrounder.

Globe and Mail TV critic Blaik Kirby wrote of his quitting at the time: “… the real reason is Gould is tired of the stations running the network.”

Mr. Gould worked for a while at Global TV, and was a broadcasting consultant.

He helped prep Progressive Conservative leader Brian Mulroney for his TV debates. In an e-mail, Mr. Mulroney said Mr. Gould worked “as a TV adviser for the debates, an area in which he excelled.”

Mr. Gould also produced a couple of dramas, the most ambitious was Divided Loyalties, which was broadcast on CTV in 1990.

It told the story of the Iroquois Confederation during the American War of Independence. Mr. Gould was executive producer.

“At two hours in length (and it had been cut down) we had to compress things, but the major scenes are all true,” he told the Toronto Star.

“I’ve wanted to do this since 1974.”

Many people who spend their lives travelling for work like to stay put in retirement. Tom Gould was not one of them. He and his wife of the last 25 years, Jodey Porter, visited 45 countries.

“I am legally blind, so Tom was my guide,” said Ms. Porter, a retired assistant deputy minister of health in Ontario.

“He was a heroic and gallant man.”

Mr. Gould died of cancer at his home in Niagara-on-the-Lake on July 21. He is survived by his wife, Ms. Porter; his children, Thomas Gould, Nancy Dery and Shannon Feldman; and six grandsons.

About the Author

About the Author: Fred has had a full career as a CBC TV host and reporter. He has written countless articles for many renowned publications such as The Economist, The Globe and Mail, BusinessWeek and many more, as well as more than 2000 obituaries. He is also a successfully published author and ghostwriter. His current projects include writing and co-authoring books, as well as lending his talents as a speaker and interviewer for webcasts. .

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